BILBEIS, city in the province of Sharqiyyah located at the junction of the Eastern Desert and the Delta about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Cairo.
Though Bilbeis is seldom mentioned in Greek and Latin sources from the Roman-Byzantine era, it is apparent that the city existed prior to the ARAB CONQUEST OF EGYPT in 641 and that it had a bishop as early as the seventh century. The name of the city appears often in Coptic scales, which is an indication of an older tradition. Bilbeis also occurs in the lists of Egyptian bishoprics (Munier, 1943, pp. 47, 54, 63). The first bishop in Bilbeis whose name we know was Apa Abraham. The Coptic account of the FORTY-NINE MARTYRS of Scetis states that Abraham sought the remains of the martyrs when they lay in the cave of Piamoun. From this story one can reasonably assume that Abraham, who was a contemporary of John, Hegumenos of Scetis, was bishop in the pre-Arabic period (cf. Evelyn-White, 1932, pp. 270-71).
Another Abraham who served as bishop of Bilbeis was present at the synod held in Cairo in 744 to choose KHA’IL I as patriarch.
Under the direction of King Amalrich of Jerusalem, the Crusaders took Bilbeis in 1168, and some Copts lost their lives in the battles. However, by the fourteenth century, the city was once again the seat of a Coptic bishop. There is also evidence to suggest that Bilbeis boasted a Christian writing school at the beginning of the fourteenth century.
Coptic tradition says that Bilbeis was one of the stopping places of the family of Jesus during the FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.
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